An impoundment is the act of a president of the United States of not spending money authorized by the United States Congress. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson was the first president to use the power of impoundment. As a result, the president's option to reject congressionally approved expenditures indefinitely was lost. Since then, every president has had to issue annual budgets that allocate funds for specific programs.
In 1974, executive branch officials who were responsible for administering federal programs concluded that President Nixon had impounded $33 million by refusing to spend it. The following year, the House of Representatives voted to provide funding for these programs. From that time forward, it has been assumed that any money not spent by a president is returned to the Treasury.
The power of impoundment has been included in all bills passed by Congress since its creation in 1789. It allows the president to withhold or transfer funds within existing appropriations measures. This power is not new; it has been included in all previous budgets enacted by Congress. However, prior to 1974, no president had ever used this authority because it was believed to be impossible due to legal constraints.
In 1973, Senator Hugh Scott (R-Penn.) introduced legislation that would have given the president direct control over the budget process.
According to the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, the president may recommend the revocation of specified funds, but such revocation must be authorized by both the House of Representatives and the Senate within 45 days. If the president fails to make such a recommendation, the funds in question are deemed forfeited to the Treasury.
In other words, the president can't veto bills just because he doesn't like their contents; he can only object to specific provisions. The lack of a veto means that presidents can't block bills through symbolic gestures or by refusing to sign them into law. A majority vote in each chamber is required for most legislation to take effect.
The Constitution provides the president with the power to remove executive officers who have been appointed by him with the advice and consent of the Senate. However, this power has never been used to remove an officer who is not serving in an interim position. Instead, it has usually been applied to cases where there is doubt about whether a person is qualified for their position.
The president can also refuse to appoint individuals to federal offices if he believes they are not qualified. Again, this power has never been used to prevent Congress from filling vacancies during adjournment sine die.
The final power mentioned in the article is the ability of the president to direct the expenditure of funds by agencies under his control.
Previous presidents were given the authority to impound funds as they thought suitable. The privilege was withdrawn by the United States Supreme Court in 1998 due to a breach of the Presentment Clause. This authority was available to all presidents and was thought to be inherent in the position.
According to Curt Tarnoff of the US Congressional Research Service, conflicts between the administration and Congress are frequently sorted out informally. If they aren't—for example, if the president refuses to spend funds explicitly requested by Congress—a procedure known as impoundment may be started.
Immediate objections were raised by members of Congress who argued that the only way to enforce congressional mandates is with funding. In addition, some feared that delaying or refusing to act on requests for funds would harm the government's ability to function.
The first reaction to these concerns came in the form of a memorandum signed by President Nixon in 1969. He instructed federal agencies not to comply with any part of an appropriations bill that was objectionable to the executive branch. He also ordered the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate charges of corruption made against several agencies and officials. Finally, he declared his intention to use his veto power if necessary to prevent Congress from interfering with the operations of these agencies.
Nixon's memorandum created much controversy when it was announced. Some critics claimed that it violated the separation of powers by allowing the executive branch to set policy by refusing to obey laws it did not like. Others objected that it interfered with Congress' role as guardian of the purse by denying it control over agency budgets. Still others believed that it was undemocratic because it prevented lawmakers themselves from knowing what programs were being cut back or delayed.
This is basically a method for Congress to bring a president on trial for abuse of authority and, eventually, remove him from office. There are various steps to impeachment. The primary stage, the authority to investigate suspected wrongdoing on the part of the president, is held by the Branch of Representatives, the lower house of the United States Congress. If she decides that there is sufficient evidence of misbehavior to merit a trial, then the Speaker of the House would issue a written charge against the president. This document would be referred to a committee for further action.
At this point, the Judiciary Committee would be given jurisdiction over the case. It would consist of members of Congress who could vote on whether or not to impeach the president. If the majority votes in favor of proceeding with the investigation, then more committees would be formed to conduct additional investigations into other alleged abuses of power by the president.
Finally, after all the investigations have been completed, the full House of Representatives would vote on whether to impeach the president. If the majority votes in favor of impeachment, then the Senate would hold a trial on whether to convict the president of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. If he is found guilty, then the president is removed from office. If not, then he is allowed to stay in office until his term ends.
Thus, impeachment is a political process that allows Congress to remove a president from office if it believes he has abused his powers.